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Latest cushion products promote performance enhancements

March 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 20

By Nicole Murray

As consumer flooring trends continue to lean toward hard surfaces—specifically LVT, WPC and SPC—underlayment manufacturers are innovating to stay ahead as well as provide dealers with upsell opportunities. During Surfaces earlier this year, a host of underlayment manufacturers exhibited their latest products made for all types of flooring.

Amorim showcased its underlayment for LVT and WPC applications. “We have tweaked what we are offering to now include other products for WPC constructions,” said Larry Lyons, director of sales and marketing. “For our hard surface underlayment program, we have a lightweight product that’s very specified and everyone is using it because it is easier for laying down WPC.”

Lyons explained the benefits to using the product. “On the LVT side, if you have a connection with a property management client, there is an education opportunity for a retailer. A lot of the property management clients want LVT but don’t know about the potential sound issues. We have tools for retailers to help educate the end user about why they need the underlayment.”

Floor Muffler is also riding the wave of LVT/WPC growth with its new Floor Muffler LVT underlayment. The product is 1mm thick and features acoustical and moisture barrier properties.

“Once we started seeing LVT grow popular in apartment buildings, there grew a need for sound reduction,” said Collen Gormley, national marketing coordinator, Floor Muffler. “LVT is growing in the industry; therefore, it is growing for us. The underlayments that are already attached to LVT products may be more convenient, but then you are not using the best quality product with the best ratings available.”

Pak-Lite showed its one-of-a-kind fan fold underlayment applications made specifically for the vinyl and laminate industry. One of its key selling points is its ease of installation. “It is one of the easiest products to install and we have heard that from flooring experts themselves,” said Kimberly Liemkeo, marketing manager. “It is a doable installation process for those who are not very experienced, and the process itself takes out imperfections that exist within the flooring.”

WE Cork highlighted underlayment made for various floors. New to Surfaces was the company’s Warm and Quiet Plus, a 6mm cork underlayment that offers sound control under carpeting, wood and laminates.

Being that it is made from cork, this underlayment is lighter than other products with similar thicknesses. It also has no off gassing and offers a new level of comfort, especially when applied underneath hardwood flooring.

“Cork consists of 200 million closed air cells per cubic inch,” said Ann Wicander, president. “When you walk on cork, it will take a bit more concussion and will be that much more comfortable. While rubber is being used for a lot of multifamily situations, cork overall has a better performance and is more affordable.”

MP Global’s new addition, Quiet Walk Plus, was promoted throughout the show as a “one-stop-shop” underlayment billed as an upgraded version of its original Quiet Walk. Quiet Walk Plus has greater acoustic performance, compression resistance, moisture protection and longevity due to its fiber composition. It can also be paired with more flooring categories and types of installation.

“Quiet Walk Plus becomes your Swiss army knife that can handle being nailed, floated or glued down,” said Deanna Summers, marketing manager, MP Global. “The material is dense enough to support vinyl planking or WPC products and will not crush over time like we have seen with foam underlayments.”

Among the higher-end releases was Laticrete’s new Strata heat floor warming line, designed to be used under tile flooring. It’s controlled by a thermostat that can be adjusted through a smart phone app.

“A wire is placed throughout a mat that goes underneath the tiles, so the material will heat much faster,” said Maria Oliviera, corporate marketing manager, Laticrete. “This technology is best designed for bathrooms or kitchens and offers yet another level to upsell because of its ease for installation during an already existing project.”

To provide dealers with upsell opportunities is DriTac’s new “all-in-one” Total Sound Reduction System, which includes the 8301 Impact underlayment made for resilient and 8302 Double Impact underlayment for wood and laminates. The package comes with a lifetime warranty, enhanced moisture control of up to 10 pounds calcium chloride and 95% relative humidity. All the products come from one supplier. 

“We are marrying our underlayments with our adhesives to offer an enhanced system package that we can get fully behind,” said John Lio, vice president of marketing, DriTac. “It avoids any finger pointing because we know this package inside and out. It gives us all the more reason to stand behind these products because we make it a point to only release premium-level options.”

Similar to a few manufacturers, Centaur Floor Systems not only manufactures a variety of finished products mainly for commercial interiors, but it also provides the underlayment that goes underneath the flooring. Case in point is its Sound Reducer line, which is engineered to provide exceptional impact sound insulation results, even under hard surface flooring for concrete or wood-framed construction.

Also available with a waterproof membrane, Sound Reducer can be installed under most types of grouted, glued and floating floors—including hard tile, hardwood, engineered wood, laminate, LVT and carpet. It’s available in 48-inch-wide rolls in a variety of both standard and custom thicknesses (vapor barrier option available upon request).

Some of Centaur Floor Systems’ products already include the underlayment as a pre-attached backing. This includes the company’s Triple Threat line, which consists of a vinyl wear layer with a 7mm-thick recycled rubber underlayment. According to the company, the product saves time and money because installers only need to put down one material. “We fusion bond the vinyl to the recycled rubber backing so only one material is getting installed as opposed to two different products being laid on top of one another,” said Garnet Sofillas, public relations and communications manager. “Underlayment is always suggested for vinyl, so you can glue down our Triple Threat product directly over the subfloor, saving an installation step.”

Triple Threat’s maximum potential, according to Centaur, is utilized when applying the product to areas designed for exercise and physical activity—gyms or basketball courts, for example. “The material is very forgiving on the hips and joints,” Sofillas added.

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Women in Flooring: Ann Wicander—Fifth-generation success in cork, underlayments

January 16/23, 2017: Volume 31, Number 16

By Lindsay Baillie

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 12.33.13 PMAnn Wicander, president of WE Cork, represents the fifth generation of her family to be involved in the cork industry. Wicander’s journey began with her father, who headed the branch of the family’s cork company in Switzerland, where Wicander was born. “We were there for 11 years, during which time my father gave my older brothers and me lots of opportunity to earn extra money by gluing samples on brochures,” Wicander recalled. “He would pay us by piece and quality.”

Wicander recalled the turbulent fourth generation of the family business—a time when her father sold his shares of Wicanders to remaining family members and started a competitive business. The original family business was later sold out of the family to a large Portuguese manufacturer. A few years later Wicander and her family moved to the United States and established what is now called WE Cork. During that time, Wicander would occasionally accompany her father to trade shows.

“After University, he asked if I would be interested in going to California and exploring the sound control market for our new WECU Soundless products, which were doing extremely well in the new condo market that had sprouted during the late ’70s, early ’80s in Florida,” Wicander said. “His package included $50/day for food, hotel and car; compensation was 100% commission.

“After eight weeks, two sales, much rejection and virtually no income, I took a position as a sales rep for a veterinary pharmaceutical distributor in Connecticut,” she added. “Three years later, in 1990, my father offered me another opportunity, and I, a bit wiser, negotiated for a more industry-competitive package.”

From her early start gluing samples to exploring the sound control market, Wicander’s journey to becoming president of WE Cork was marked by many ups and downs in the economy, market conditions and with respect to personnel. She initially started in sales and rose to the position of marketing manager before her father split the sales territories. She was elevated to the position of president of the Western division in 1995, although she technically ran both divisions despite her new title. In 1998 Wicander took the reins as president of the entire company.

As president, Wicander has helped WE Cork expand within the flooring industry. With a shifted focus toward the flooring division, she has headed numerous product launches. “When I first entered the industry, the majority of our business was underlayment and other products outside of the flooring industry. I have since been very focused on the flooring segment and have incorporated new technologies in developing our collections. Our Serenity collection is a perfect example; the high-definition print technology—which has for years given ceramic tile new life—offers our customers the comfort, quiet, warm and sustainable solution which cork has always offered, under the cloak of wood and custom visuals which appeal to the mainstream.”

Wicander was clear that her shift in focus toward the flooring segment has not stopped WE Cork from working with underlayment. “[It] is still a big part of our business. We’re still looking for new applications for our products. We have an LVT underlayment named Silently, which grew out of the LVT market and has been fantastic for us. In recognizing where the market is going, I see what it needs and I’d like to think I’m pretty quick to address those needs.”

To that end, WE Cork is meticulous when introducing new products. “We put a lot of work into making sure our products are ready for the market,” Wicander said, referring to the consequences associated with product misfires. “Bad news travels much faster than good news.”

Traits for success

Wicander describes herself as an “on-the-ground” type of person. Throughout her day-to-day she is most happy talking to people, going to trade shows and traveling. Luckily for her, no two workdays are the same.

“If I am at the office, my day may entail corresponding with customers about products and programs, discussing marketing updates and changes with our design team, receiving updates and requests from salespeople and, of course, reviewing the financials,” she explained. “Much of my time is spent on the road calling on prospective customers, providing support to our distributors, traveling to Europe where the new technologies and designs are incorporated as well as going to trade shows.”

With all the work that Wicander does, it can be hard to find downtime. While achieving the right work-life balance can be challenging, she strives to keep it all in perspective. “This is a challenge for us all, but I do subscribe to the belief that you should work hard and play hard. My big release is fox hunting on horseback. I also go eventing, which is similar to a triathlon on a horse. I have friends who help keep my horses fit, and then I ride whenever I can.”

As a woman in a male-dominated industry, Wicander said she hasn’t felt much adversity and believes her formative years have had a significant impact on her current position. “I was the third child with two older brothers and a neighborhood that was primarily all boys,” she recalled. “Furthermore, my parents treated my younger sister and I the same as my brothers; we all had to do the dishes and we all had to help stack wood. The expectations were the same, regardless of gender. This would prepare me for the future in a male-dominated industry. I never saw any roadblocks, only opportunities.”

Wicander hopes a shift will bring more women into similar positions like hers. “There certainly has been a larger influence by women in the design and marketing segment; there now just needs to be more representation on the managerial side. This will come in time.”

Her advice to other women in the industry is straightforward. “Make sure you are prepared for your meetings; know your product or service; honor your word and promises; and be persistent.”

This advice is not only self-practiced but has been shared with others at WE Cork. “She taught me a lot in business—how to work with salespeople, distributors and how to keep the business going,” said Diane Farrell, office manager. “She really knows what she’s doing.”

It’s that same work ethic and laser focus on professionalism that Wicander plans to employ to propel the company forward. “My plan is to continue in the path I am following now,” she said. “Adapt new technologies to help cork increase its footprint and continue to educate the distributor, dealer, architect and designer about the unmatched virtues of WE Cork products. As we in the cork industry currently represent a small speck in the flooring industry, my work will never end.”

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J.J. Haines rockets to new heights

by Emily J. Cappiello

Baltimore—It takes more than a challenging economic climate to slow the Haines Loyalty Club’s momentum. The retail group arm of the nation’s No. 1 flooring distributor saw its membership increase from 272 to its current 288, according to Scott Roy, vice president of sales, marketing and customer service, and those members grew their businesses a collective 4% compared to the distributor’s retailers outside the program, who saw declines of about 5% in overall business. Continue reading J.J. Haines rockets to new heights